Twix and Six

Starting gambling at the tender age of six, I knew there was more than money to quench one’s wallet, or lack there of.  I had no wallet, let alone money, but I longed for the almighty Twix candy bar.  Making a wager for a candy bar was worth the risk of receiving a spanking for gambling a dollar I didn’t possess.  However,  I knew my father was good for the buck if I lost a bet….as long as I made his bed and dusted the house.

In 1979, prior to the Super Bowl, I marched over to our neighbor’s house and made a wager with the father of some of our great friends.  He knew I loved football, and he knew I was six, but he also knew I liked chocolate more than money.  Additionally, he clearly knew I was ignorant.

Fortunately, he and my father were good friends, so he knew I was solid for the dollar if I lost.  If I won, I knew he was solid for the Twix.  This was hardcore Locust Street gambling.

The Pittsburg Steelers ( the steel curtain) were playing the Los Angeles Rams.  The Steelers won and I lost.  I was good for the dollar after making Dad’s bed while dusting a five thousand square foot house.

One week later, there was a Twix candy bar lying on our porch.  My father required that I  return the Twix to our neighbor, as a bet is a bet and you have to stand tall (or short) regarding how shrewd or dimwitted your bet may be.  Reluctantly, I did return the Twix, yet our delightful neighbor denied he had purchased it for me.  It further solidified my father’s friendship with our neighbor.  I still have the Twix. I keep it in my glove compartment.  That’s B.S…I crammed that cookie caramel chocolate finger sandwich in my mouth on his porch like it was my last supper.

Other than friendly bets, I don’t gamble anymore.



Play Fair

The Kentucky Derby is right around the corner and on its home stretch, but I lived another  stretch several times in Spokane, Washington.  The stretch started with confession, followed by lying, and ended at a horse track known as (quite ironically) Playfair.

Probably seven years old at the time, I maintained morals and specific values.  However, (forgive me father) I did sin at that pivotal age.  I was willing to tell a lie, but two of my brothers and my father were not satisfied with my less than adequate fib.  Nor was the Catholic Priest.

You see, at this age, I swear, my only sins were lying in the confessional.  The priest asks you to reveal your sins.

Confess your sins, my son.

Is playing wiffle ball in the backyard a sin?

No, but did you intentionally hit anyone in the face with the bat?

Not intentionally.

Who did you “not intentionally” hit with a bat?

A neighbor.

Was he a good Catholic boy like you?

No.  He was a friendly neighborhood Mormon.

Oh, that’s definitely not a sin!

Father, can you just give me another week.  I’ll try my best to do some sinning?

Yes, my son.  Do you have any plans for the weekend?

My dad’s taking us to the race track right after I get out of here.

Ok.  That’s a great start.  I see great and powerful sinning in your future.  You will have much to talk about in our next meeting.

Perfect.  (off to begin my life of sinning) I promise you… next week this conversation won’t be so BORING!

Good.  Go in peace to love and sin for the Lord.

I did indeed go in peace, but, from my standpoint, committed a sin just hours after my dismissal.

Providing our mother a much needed break from some of her children, dad would take us to the race track for the last two races for two reasons:  free admission and he loved gambling on the horses.  (this was to be my first time to attend)  Yet, there was only one reason my two older siblings, ages eleven and thirteen did not want me tagging along.  I was only seven and to be allowed into one of the dirtiest racetracks in the nation, you must be ten.  What terrific standards they set at the track when a boy must be at least the age of ten before witnessing jockeys, trainers, owners and many of the gamblers cheating.  Seven?  “No, wait until you are ten boy before you witness such heathen like behavior.”  Since only seven at the time, I knew this presented a problem collectively for all of us going to the track.  If I can’t get in, no one gets in.  Not my dad, not my brothers and certainly not me.  Bless my wonderful father, because, much to the dismay of my brothers, he wasn’t going to leave me at home, and he was going to teach me a lesson and provide material for my next confessional visit.

Dad said to me, “Ben, I want to take you with us to the track, but by the looks on your brothers’ faces, they don’t want you to be a part of this, because if you don’t learn how to tell a lie, we can’t get in, and I can’t leave you in the car waiting, even though your brothers wouldn’t mind me doing so, understand?”

“I guess, but what do you mean by lying?  Is this like one of those phony fairy tales you weave before bedtime, or is this going to be a mortal sin?”

Patiently, and almost excitedly, dad said, “no, don’t worry about that mortal sin stuff, this is just a white lie, and it will keep you from getting beaten up by your older brothers who are begging me to leave you at home.”

My first chance at sinning, oh boy!  “What do I have to do?”

“Well, you’re seven, right?” (I don’t think he knew any of his children’s ages, but he guessed right)

“Right, dad.”

“All you have to do, when we are walking by the booth, and some swarthy man is asking for your age, just tell him you are ten.  Then, legally, he can allow your entrance.  And, believe me, he doesn’t care.  He just wants our money once we get in.”

Painfully, I had to think about this for just a few short moments, but this was my first negotiated lie.  “Dad, I’ll tell him I’m nine!” According to me, it was my first lie.

My two older brothers looked at dad and me with disgust, hands in the air and eyes rolling, but my loving father quickly extinguished the flames by saying, “hey guys, how about going to Chico’s Pizza for some pinball and at least two pies?”


Food was much more enticing to our family than gambling.  My brothers never laid a finger on me, and I could admit at my next visit to the priest that I was at least willing to tell a lie.

Today, I don’t have to lie about my age, but when asked for age identification, all I have to do is take off my baseball cap.  I don’t like telling people I’m forty.

Have fun watching the Derby.





Madness (one step beyond my room)

This is an exciting day.  It’s not just because College Basketball March Madness is one hour from starting.  It’s because I’ve convinced my wife that this day is so important.  I don’t have to work today.  Merely strolling out of our bedroom at 5 o’clock a.m. , feeding the cats and dogs, making her pancakes, replacing lightbulbs, AND doing dog and cat poop patrol is the only way to justify sitting on my butt watching the great games of college basketball.  When I pick up poop, it is madness.  Therefore, I deserve a reward.  Reward:  Lazy guy watching basketball.

Sadly, I have no money on any of these teams, but I am rooting for friends who do.  It really isn’t about the four dollars we toss in at the office for a twenty dollar payout, is it?  It should be about loving a sport and forgetting about the office and money for a few days.

March Madness is a great opportunity to bond with people.  At my former place of employment, we were forced to endure “team building retreats”, though we would have been better off just having a staff basketball pool.  Having to deal with office morale getaways from heaven made me want to descend directly to Hell.  You know, the ones where people want to gather, hold hands, and discover the essence of teamwork.  Just thinking about that made me excuse myself to the bathroom to vomit.  I don’t want to trust someone at some camp who catches me when I’m falling.  I want to be watching and betting on a game.  If every boss in this country would encourage gambling during this short stretch of days, morale would be uplifted to heavenly measures.  Employees would be happy…..therefore, those employees would work more diligently at the office for their employer after the madness ends.

I’m not encouraging gambling.  Most of the time, gambling is miserable.  Having something to root for is fun.  I lost a bet last night rooting for my friend, Tim.  It didn’t work out.  I missed out on his office March Madness pool because I waited two years to call him until I needed him.  Tim is a great man, and a good friend, but, ultimately, we have to bet on ourselves.  Ourselves are the ones we can truly count on.

Embrace the madness.

Twas the SuperBowl

Twas the night before the SuperBowl, and all through the house, all creatures were snoring because they were soused.  The bottles were scattered by the chimney with despair, in hopes that St. Gambler soon would be there.

The people all passed out were snug on the floor, while prophetic visions of money pranced upon them once more.  And one dog in a ‘kerchief’ and another dog in my lap, had just settled our betting brains down, knowing soon they would get a proper betting slap.

When out on the deck, there arose such a clatter, no one could stand up to acknowledge what was the matter.  Somehow, someone managed to stagger to the window quite unclear, only in hopes to cure the hangover with a beer.

This person could not see quite clear, but he could hear a voice coming from near.

“On Tom, On Greg, On Patrick and Craig.  On Mr. Russell, oh, why must I beg?”

The voice came from a mysterious soul.  Or, it could have came from just some random A-hole.

Those beckoned were gamblers waiting for the sun to rise, but inevitably, we all knew we’d hear their cries.  The cries would begin with Madonna’s half time beating, but the cries would continue with no proper living room seating.

Most of these friendly gamblers in the room were betting on a man named Brady.  There was another stranger in the room who looked a bit shady.  This man was taking their bets with a nod, and most were certain he was just a fraud.  There were others betting on someone named Manning.  This ensured the stranger that his wife could afford tanning.

There were chips, chops and dip, a chicken wing or fifty, but to describe what happens next, can delicately be described as not nifty.

Those friendly gamblers would eventually lose all their money.  This didn’t place them at great odds with their honey.  Remotes were tossed aimlessly with no care, several gamblers fell on the floor just pulling their hair.

The stranger left with a pile of cash, and he was the only one who didn’t need it stashed. He strolled back to his house with this satchel of dough, presented it to his wife, whose name happened to be Flo.  Of course, with that name, clearly she worked at a diner, and with that money, life would certainly get finer.  Yet, although realizing that money is not the root of evil, sometimes the “love” of money makes you act like a weasel.  This is precisely why this woman named Flo, could feel in her head her brain starting to grow.  She decided to proclaim with great clarity, “I think I’ll give this satchel of cash to a worthy charity.”

Her husband understood (sort of), and slowly exited the room, threw a few F bombs and picked up a broom.  He knew that was the only way he could honestly make money, and that was just perfectly fine with his honey.

Be wise, my gambling friends, on this day.

Have a fun day thinking about the SuperBowl at church this Sunday.  And although his wife, Gazelle, wishes for you to pray for him, I believe Tom Brady has enough of everything.   Rooting, I believe, should be kept separate from praying.



Gamblogging and Guilt

(This may only make sense to people dumb enough to gamble)

Guilty of many items, I’ll start with a few.  I am guilty of stealing whisky from a brother.  I am guilty of stealing lines and being influenced by wonderful movies such as Paint Your Wagon, The Cowboys, and Jaws.  I’ve counted the ways to cheat at cards.  I’ve been guilty of surviving Saturday drunkenness and Sunday sloth.  Forgive me.

Those are my confessions for this morning, but as I read the Bible Dictionary of Sinning, I     see that gambling is indeed on the list of mistakes leading us into a place so fondly known as Hell.  Hell is sitting at a Blackjack table waiting for the devil to give you a twenty, only to witness Satan deliver himself five small cards adding up to twenty one.  Lucifer also has four younger brothers sitting at the table taking all the face cards, thus keeping your chances of winning at a minimum.  It’s a lose lose deal, much like betting on the Super Bowl.

The Patriots are favored over the New York Giants by a few points and a kicker this year. That’s precisely why I won’t bet on either team.  It’s that half point, known as “the hook”, or a half player, known as the “kicker” always screwing up your gamble.  This is one of many reasons I no longer gamble.  The “hook” is how Vegas always steals your dough.  If one million drunks bet on the Giants, and one million vagrants bet on the Patriots, Vegas collects ten percent either way.  A person named Vegas wins, and an earthling eventually loses.

Gambling is very similar to writing.  If only fifty percent of the reading population enjoys someone’s writing style, the writer still wins, because the writer collects the juice, even after being demoralized for ten seconds receiving horrible reviews.  Let’s look at this from a baseball stance.  If you are successful five out of ten times, you are not only in the Hall of Fame, you will be Hall of Famous for ever, even if you strike out those other five at bats.

The immoral to this ridiculous banter is as follows:  Be the Bookie, or the Writer…..not the Gambler or the Editor.

If you do gamble, bet on yourself, not a team or a dealer you have no control over.  Unless, of course, you are betting a friend or brother a steak dinner over a football game. In that case, you all win.



Heisman Upsets (friendly sibling rivalries)

There is a person in my family who owes me 100 fake dollars on a bet he lost.  I haven’t heard from him since we made the fake bet.  That was 20 some odd hours ago.  You may be thinking, “What in the hell is a fake bet”?   Actually, it’s merely a friendly bet.  Since betting is illegal in certain areas, and neither of us have ever crossed the law, we often make wagers in a magical world filled with Monopoly money and Leprechauns. We are also quite competitive, so actual forms of currency don’t apply.  We just want to win.  The phone call conceding  the bet is sufficient.  It makes one of us sleep well at night knowing the older or younger brother has lost confidence.  That’s invaluable in any relationship:  making ones you love lose confidence.

Allow me to provide a lesson regarding gambling.  Using words and phrases such as, “Guarantee”, “Lock”, or “Stone Cold Lock” usually result in you being in the backseat of the gambling God of cars.  Sometimes, you may find yourself  in the trunk.   I know, I’ve been there many times, figuratively.  This family member has placed me there many times, but yesterday’s Heisman bet was certainly a guarantee for my brother.  He sealed his destiny with some of his statements, and lost, and Luck certainly wasn’t in his corner.

Be careful what you “guarantee”.  Most importantly, bet on yourself.  That’s the only only one you can truly count on……other than cards.


PGS: (post gambling syndrome)  If one of my siblings has any contact with a man named M. Thew, tell him this is dedicated to him.  Also, tell him to help me get the bookies off my tarnished bottom.